“Have a super day!!”
The romantic comedy is derivative as a point of fact—there are only so many ways an unsuspecting boy and girl can meet and thaw before falling desperately in love. Settings change, periphery characters provide the big laughs, and you hope the spark is realistic and sweet enough to get you through the inevitability of their union. Add in a fish-out-of-water trope done to death across all genres, though, and you’d assume the end result would be nothing short of an obnoxious waste of your time. Well, screenwriters Jace Mclean and Jared Parsons did exactly these things and while the end result isn’t horrible—it’s actually quite endearing—it’s probably won’t accrue more than faint praise with a hint of a smile accompanied by, “Yeah, I saw it. It was cute.”
Directed by Ishai Setton on location in Washington, New Hampshire, 3 Days of Normal tells the tale of an all-work-and-no-play small potatoes cop named Bill Morgan (Mclean) and the outsider from Manhattan he caught passed out drunk in her car by the side of the road. We glean visual clues through an early morning jog to the town line and back that he doesn’t leave Washington and can guess by his severity when it comes to driving while inebriated that a tragic past will soon unfold. He was raised by his uncle and aunt team of police chief (Richard Riehle) and dispatcher (Lin Shaye); has a hard time making friends and dating due to his wet blanket demeanor; and ultimately refuses to admit the monotony of his life needs a wake-up call.
Sheltered as he is with serving and protecting his only hobby, it’s not surprising to discover he’s the one man in town who doesn’t recognize his latest collar as celebrity “It-Girl” with a sex tape scandal, Nikki Gold (Mircea Monroe). Treating her like any big city gal who could never understand what it means to be a part of a community, he’d like nothing more than to send her on her way and go back to his drab life reading self-help magazines for lovelorn cops without the drive to act. Luckily for him, however, local troublemaker Amos (Alex Anfanger) caught a glimpse and got on the horn with New York rag TMI in hopes of a payday. The call puts paparazzi Vik Donowitz (Ajay Naidu) on the trail and a media blitz ensnares Washington.
Since it is a romance, however—and we all know famous actresses hate being fawned over by fans unwilling to learn about the real her—Chief Nickens and his wife attempt to play matchmaker while ensuring they don’t reveal Nikki’s identity to Bill. An over-the-top ruse is put in place, the two potential lovebirds go into hiding, and a rousing game of Scrabble begins to humanize them both in the other’s eyes. Cupid shoots his arrow, Vik swoops in to play spoiler, and true love is tested by deceit, honor, and the emotionally crippling prospect of doing the unexpected. The rom/com checklist therefore gets completed at a fast pace with gentle humor and out-of-their-element gags as small time hospitality proves the cure for Nikki while her yearning for authenticity beguiles Bill in return.
Shaye and Riehle add a heartwarming nature to the proceedings while Anfanger provides the most laughs through his sarcastic immaturity. Naidu may play his “city charm” a bit too broad, but he’s more catalyst to push Nikki and Bill together than anything else. As far as the leads go, Monroe and Mclean prove to be a nice pair. His early awkwardness showing he might have only won the role because he wrote the film eventually settles down into lovesick innocence and embarrassment while her fortified guard gradually retracts with an understanding of the lifestyle her new friend has evolved from. And while her character’s youth in Ontario allows her to effectively mix with country locals, the real fun comes when Mclean takes his Mountie costume on the road to the busy streets of New York.
If 3 Days of Normal lets anything rise above its inherent convention, it’s the blossoming relationship of its leads. The transition from cocky revulsion to sweet puppy love may happen quicker than should be possible, but that’s what happens with two people so far removed from the other they can’t help getting drawn into someone outside their comfort zone. So while you’ve definitely seen it before and will again, you could always do much worse with a Hollywood iteration trying way too hard. Mclean and Parsons have drawn their comedy from life with enough subtlety to forgive the few areas of excess and have given it a tonally consistent finale to equal the cautious optimism we see throughout. It’s about the opportunity to earn a second chance in love and life—a hopeful message with universal appeal.